Directed by Martin Scorsese. Starring Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law, Christopher Lee and Emily Mortimer. 126 minutes. PG
For a while, I didn’t really know what Hugo was about. I knew it was a Scorsese movie, I was pretty sure it was kid-friendly and I kept hearing praise about its visuals. But when I heard that it was a movie about movies, I had to see it.
The eponymously-titled Hugo follows the story of a young orphan boy and his journey to finding a purpose. Set in Paris, Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is sent to live with his uncle after this father dies. His alcoholic uncle, who works fixing clocks in a train station, pulls Hugo out of school and sends him to work, also fixing clocks. While working full-time, Hugo’s also continuing a project he’d begun with his father before he died, fixing an old, broken automaton, a robot of sorts. It’s almost working, save for a heart-shaped key he needs to get it started. Hugo eventually runs into trouble with Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley) who works in a toyshop in the station and befriends his goddaughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), who joins him in uncovering a mystery greater than he ever expected. This movie is one of the most charming I’ve seen all year (actually, only in competition with the other France-set blockbusters of the year: Midnight in Paris and The Artist).
There’s no way to talk about this movie without mentioning its stunning visuals. It’s got a seamless, surreal blend of CGI and live action. Costumes are pay homage to their era though are still interestingly anachronistic. The sets are finely detailed and gorgeous to look at. It’s just a beautiful movie. Even the peculiar films within the movie are fun to look at, reminiscent of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, though this time done right.
The cast is perfect. Butterfield and Moretz are sweet, naive and innocent. The ageless Kingsley (can you believe Gandhi was 30 years ago?!) is more than convincing, whether playing the grumpy, old toyshop owner or his young self, the excited, exuberant filmmaker. However, the most surprising performance comes from Sacha Baron Cohen as the stern station inspector always on Hugo’s tail for loitering around. I’m a big Cohen fan and I think that he’s brilliant, so it’s even more impressive to see him a role that doesn’t require him to be one of his absurd politcally-challenging characters and still be funny and captivating.
If I haven’t sold you yet, let me just say one more thing: cute dogs. As if Uggie in The Artist and Arthur in Beginners weren’t doggy cuteness overload, there are several more in this film. Seriously, the two that become friends in the station, so cute.
Believe me, none of what I’m saying is because of Hugo‘s Oscars sweep. I saw this movie and I fell in love. It’s just so magical. A+